Trombonist Alan Ferber has languished on the N.Y.C. scene as a sideman and occasional bandleader since the late '90s, here finally realizing a dream come true in combining his nine-piece modern jazz nonet with a large progressive string ensemble. Inspired by his wife, cellist Jody Redhage, Ferber has conjured up -- along with conductor J.C. Sanford -- music that is based on blue moods, richly written symphonic parts, punchy horn charts, and American art or folk forms. In the string section are legitimate jazz players, in this case soloists like Zach Brock and Sara Caswell, and from the contemporary scene excellent players like saxophonists Jon Gordon (alto/soprano) and John Ellis (tenor only), trumpeter Scott Wendholt, bass clarinetist Douglas Yates, and the exceptional pianist Bryn Roberts. Oftentimes the music really flourishes, as on the developed "Sedona," where you hear Ferber's involved and intricate writing, or during Gordon's "Paradox," where road song meets the chamber aspects of the group above ground. Then there's the juggernaut visage of "Union Blues," as the horns romp and stomp around, firmly but in sparring punches. Roberts is a player to keep an ear on, as he's formulating original thoughts in the modal arena, as clearly heard during the arresting, mid-level dramatic "Fables," but there's also a slow and hot Southern wind that he and guitarist Nate Radley grip on "Magnolia." Ferber's concept is solid, the music balanced 50/50 and enjoyable beyond conventional terms. Hopefully this can be a continuing work in progress, for the sown seeds are there to produce more beautiful hybrid flowers.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos